Exeter school board reinstates mask requirement

The Exeter School Board voted 7-2 on Sunday to reinstate mask requirements for all students, staff and visitors to buildings in the district.

The restriction takes effect Monday and is expected to continue until January 19. The board plans to revisit the matter at its Jan. 18 meeting.

The board met on Sunday to discuss its response to Berks County’s decision last week to reinstate a declaration of disaster emergency due to a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases these last days. The intention was to decide on any policy changes before the return of staff and students after the Christmas vacation.

The district has been making masks optional since a court ruling overturned state Department of Health orders requiring masks in all schools in Pennsylvania.

Board member Jason Mell, who introduced the motion, said it is wise to exercise caution when the local health system is under significant pressure. He said it would be better to act right away rather than wait until cases start to increase and making the masks optional greatly compromises their effectiveness in reducing the transmission of the virus.

Board member Timothy Morgan said a temporary mask requirement will make schools less likely to return to virtual learning.

Board chair Ann Hearing and member Andrea Battler voted against the measure. The hearing said it would be better to leave the matter to each family. She argued that COVID is not going to go away and that it is time to start treating like other contagious diseases rather than taking extreme measures to prevent its transmission. Battler objected to not requiring masks in sports and other activities involving physical exertion, which she said was inconsistent and would significantly reduce the effectiveness of the policy.

The board also passed Morgan’s motion calling on people to take precautionary measures if a member of their household tests positive for COVID-19. The measure is based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He recommends a five to 10 day quarantine for unvaccinated people as well as for fully vaccinated people who received their last dose more than six months ago for Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or two months ago for Johnson & Johnson. . People who have received a vaccination booster or who have been vaccinated more recently are invited to wear a mask at school for 10 days.

Morgan acknowledged that the policy cannot be enforced because there is no reporting requirement for positive COVID tests at home, but argued that it would be helpful to provide families in the district with clarification of what the school system expects from those in this situation.

The motion was carried by a vote of 8 to 1, the hearing being opposed.

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